Yom Ha’atzma’ut, Israeli Independence Day, is a joyous holiday. In Israel, every year, from Eilat to Metulla, from Tel Aviv to the Jordan Valley, everyone across every spectrum – secular, religious; rich, poor; left, Right, Ashkenazi, Sephardi – is out celebrating.
The reconstitution of the Jewish state, and its growth within three generations from a third world economic and military basket case into a prosperous and powerful country, is among the most astounding success stories in human history. Certainly it is the greatest story of Jewish success since Joshua led a nation of former slaves in conquering and settling the land of Israel some 3,500 years ago.
And today, three generations after the enslavement and genocide of European Jewry and the expulsion of the Jews from Islamic lands, the Jewish people in the Land of Israel have built arguably the most dynamic society in the world.
For the Jews of the Diaspora, Israel’s success should be a source of enduring pride and joy. Independence Day should be celebrated by Jews throughout the world. But in recent years, associations of Israel with joy have become increasingly rare.
As one Jewish student activist put it, the celebration on his campus was nothing more than “a bunch of kids eating cake.”
And at the same time, he explained, many students were posting statuses on their Facebook pages talking about how the day was “bittersweet because of the Nakba.”
The situation was all too similar in campuses throughout North America. Yom Ha’atzma’ut, the celebration of the greatest act of Jewish will in modern times, was marked with a shrug, and small clumps of students eating felafel and humous, and cake.
No doubt, part of the problem is the distance.
It may be that you have to live in Israel to understand how amazing it is. But then again, thanks to programs like Birthright, far more young American Jews have visited Israel in recent years than had visited in previous generations. And previous generations of American Jews felt far greater joy in Israel’s accomplishments than young American Jews feel today.
Part of the problem is ignorance. With steadily decreasing levels of Jewish education and religious affiliation among non-Orthodox Jews in the US, young American Jews don’t know almost anything about their Jewish identity.
They are unfamiliar with their history. Their religious education – if they had any – generally came to a grinding halt immediately after their bar mitzvas. And their Zionist education, such as it may have been, was filtered through the media and then, once they arrived in college, through the rants of their anti-Israel professors.
And part of it is that they are intimidated.
Hate groups like Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voices for Peace harangue Jewish students for uttering even the mildest defenses of Israel.
When students are willing to stand up to these hate groups, they are beset by J Street U members telling them that there is nothing anti-Israel about being anti-Israel, and that being anti-Israel really means being pro-Israel.
The ignorant Jews shrug their shoulders and walk away because Israel is just too much trouble. Or they stay and become convinced that they can be pro-Israel by being anti-Israel.
A poll of Israeli Jews published on Independence Day by Tel Aviv University found that 80 percent are optimistic about Israel’s future, and 85% are optimistic about their own future.
Eighty percent of Israelis wouldn’t want to live anywhere but Israel.
Israelis are most concerned about domestic issues. Forty-seven percent are most concerned about the divide between the wealthy and the poor. Twenty-one percent are most concerned with skyrocketing housing prices. Only 8.7% think the most urgent challenge is to make peace with the Palestinians.
For most American Jews, these Israeli priorities are incomprehensible. Over the past 20 years, and at an accelerated pace over the past five years, they have been browbeaten by the mantra that Israel is all but synonymous with the peace process, and that without it, the Jewish state will be lost.
This mantra, which denies Israel an existence independent of the Palestinian conflict, was created immediately after Israel embarked on the peace process with the PLO in 1993. It was bad enough from the outset. But it has become gravely exacerbated by the appearance of J Street on the American Jewish scene.
Before J Street, ignorant American Jews could defend Israel because it is pro-peace. But since J Street arrived at the scene, the fact that Israel has always sought peace with its neighbors is increasingly denied and replaced with lies about Israeli culpability for the pathologies of the Palestinians and the wider Islamic world.
J Street is an anti-Israel, pro-Iranian and pro-Palestinian lobby run by American Jews.
Since its founding six years ago, J Street has lobbied against US sanctions on Iran. It has lobbied for US support for anti-Israel resolutions in the UN Security Council. It lobbied in favor of the libelous Goldstone Report and then lied about its actions when they were exposed.
J Street opposes US strategic ties with Israel. It opposes efforts to defeat the campaign to delegitimize Israel. It hosts openly anti-Semitic speakers at its conferences. It raises money to defeat pro-Israel members of Congress.
J Street supports the BDS movement. It defends BDS activists against their Jewish victims on US college campuses. It hosts them at its conferences and cosponsors events with them.
J Street’s purpose is twofold. First, as an anti-Israel lobby that acts in support of the Iranian regime and Palestinian terrorist organizations, it seeks to diminish to the point of ending the US’s alliance with Israel. To this end, as Richard Baehr noted this week in Israel Hayom, J Street is working to wrest the Democratic Party away from Israel and so make supporting Israel a partisan issue in American politics.
Second, as the recently released documentary on J Street, “The J Street Challenge,” demonstrates, J Street strives to make it difficult if not impossible for the American Jewish community to support Israel in any coherent fashion.
In a speech at the New America Foundation, J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami explained that the organization’s goal is to destroy the power and influence of the American Jewish community.
In his words, “I think we’re taking on much more than AIPAC. I think that it is the Conference of Presidents. It’s the American Jewish Committee. It’s the lobbying structures of the Federations. It’s the network of JCRCs, the Jewish Community Relations Councils.”
He then employed classical anti-Semitic imagery to explain the magnitude of the challenge and of the danger allegedly posed by these groups.
“It’s a really multi-layered, multi-headed hydra. This monopoly, this many-headed monopoly, has been trying to squash us.”
The most effective means that J Street has employed to date to accomplish its destructive task has been joining the big communal tents. In these efforts it has been most successful on college campuses.
After decades of living with the perception of Israel as inextricably linked to the “peace process,” most American Jews are extremely supportive of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
J Street exploits this popular position to undermine Israel. Falsely presenting itself as a “pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization, the anti-Israel lobby has entered into the big tent of Jewish communal life at campus Hillels to both undermine support for Israel, and render it all but impossible for Jews on campuses and in larger communities to voice a coherent Zionist message. They accomplish this by falsely arguing that strong pro-Israel positions undermine prospects for peace and that Israel itself undermines peace.
To be clear, J Street is to Zionism what Jews for Jesus are to Judaism.
Jews for Jesus call themselves Messianic Jews. They dress like observant Jews and prey on the religious ignorance of young American Jews to convince them to convert to Christianity.
In J Street’s case, its members present themselves as pro-Israel and pro-peace, or simply as pro-peace, to exploit the ignorance of American Jews and subvert their capacity and willingness to support Israel.
Last week, J Street’s strategy of penetrating mainstream Jewish organizations hit a brick wall. The Conference of Presidents, one of the “heads” of the Jewish “hydra” that Ben-Ami declared J Street seeks to destroy, rejected J Street’s application for membership.
Partly due to the strong support J Street receives from the leftist media in the US, partly due to the rise of radicals to leadership positions in many major American Jewish organizations, J Street’s application for membership was a cause for concern. Many activists were convinced that it would be accepted.
So the fact that J Street failed to muster not only the two-thirds majority necessary to become a member, it failed to win even a simple majority of the votes, is a major triumph for the community and a cause for hope that the battle for Zionism in America has been joined.
And it must be joined, and won. As far as J Street is concerned, its bid to join the Conference of Presidents was merely one battle in its war against American Zionism.
Immediately after the votes were counted, J Street moved to Plan B. It mobilized its supporters in the Reform and Conservative movements to bludgeon the Conference of Presidents for daring to reject the membership application of an anti-Israel group whose leader publicly pledged to destroy the Conference of Presidents.
J Street exists to fight. Its goal is to destroy. The tools it employs are demoralization and deceit. That is why the reticence American Jews feel about celebrating Yom Ha’atzma’ut is not merely sad. It is dangerous.
Israel is the most extraordinary collective achievement of the Jewish people in thousands of years. It is the embodiment of the dreams, faith, blood, sweat and tears of the Jewish people today and throughout time in both spiritual and physical terms.
Israel is something that every Jew should celebrate and be thankful not only on Yom Ha’atzma’ut, but every day of the year.
Israelis know this and that is why we are so content and optimistic.
It is J Street’s purpose to hide this truth from the American Jewish community. So it is the task of the American Jews to build on the decision of the Conference of Presidents and ensure through education, travel to Israel and aliya that J Street goes down in time as the great failure it deserves to be. Doing so will ensure that next year, instead of being reduced to the sad spectacle of “a bunch of kids eating cake,” Yom Ha’atzma’ut celebrations worldwide will be the unbridled expressions of joy that they are in Israel.